Colombian government and ELN to hold third round of peace talks in Cuba

The delegations of the Colombian government and the ELN are expected to reach crucial agreements on a bilateral ceasefire and participation of civil society groups in the peace process

April 27, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
The delegations of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) during the closing ceremony of the second round of peace talks on March 10, in Mexico. Photo: Francia Márquez/Twitter

On Tuesday, April 25, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez reported that the third round of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group would begin in Havana, Cuba, on May 2.

“We will host from May 2, with the traditional willingness and impartiality of Cuba as guarantor and alternative venue, the celebration in Havana of the Third Round of the Peace Negotiating Table between the Colombian government and the ELN,” wrote Rodríguez in a tweet.

For its part, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace reiterated the government’s “willingness to move forward in the process” and thanked Cuba for its “invaluable support for peace in Colombia” in a message on Twitter.

In turn, the ELN said that in the upcoming round, the delegations would work to reach agreements on three topics: “participation of civil society, bilateral ceasefire, and humanitarian actions and dynamics.”

Last month, Colombian President Gustavo Petro met with the members of his peace negotiating team and instructed them to try to reach agreements on a bilateral ceasefire and mechanisms for the participation of civil society in the process by the end of the third round of talks.

The meeting was held after an attack by the ELN against a military unit in Norte de Santander left nine soldiers dead and another nine wounded. The ELN explained that the group has the right to defend itself and respond to the attacks it faces from the military forces, recalling that it has not yet agreed on a bilateral ceasefire with the government.

Peace negotiations with the ELN first began in February 2017 during the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos, but were suspended by his successor Iván Duque in January 2019. After taking office in August 2022, President Gustavo Petro pledged to bring “total peace” to the country. He announced the resumption of talks with the ELN, and began promoting peace negotiations with all irregular armed groups, including left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

The first round of talks between the Petro government and the ELN was held in Caracas, Venezuela, between November 21 and December 12, 2022. During the first round, the parties reached agreements on the safe return of the Embera Indigenous people to their lands in Murindó municipality in the Antioquia department. The community had been displaced due to violence and internal conflict between the Colombian armed forces and ELN combatants. Both sides also reached an agreement for humanitarian relief measures in Bajo Calima in the Valle del Cauca department, and Medio San Juan in the Chocó department.

The second round was held in Mexico City, Mexico, between February 13 and March 10. During this round, the parties agreed on a six-point definitive agenda to guide the following stages of the negotiation process. They reached an initial agreement regarding the participation of civil society groups, as well as for a bilateral truce.